Surrey’s Police Board has endorsed the development of an “Indigenization Strategy” that aims to ensure that the “priorities and perspectives” of local First Nations people are built into the foundation and policies of the Surrey Police Service, which is on track to replace the Surrey RCMP.
The board met Tuesday and its next meeting is set for Nov. 20.
Harley Chappell, chief of the Semiahmoo First Nation and chairman of the Surrey Police Board’s governance committee, presented the Indigenization Strategy to the board.
“My intention, when I started this, was in my eyes it was the municipality’s responsibility to engage in this consultation, but we as the board are the ones ensuring, as it has been stated, to do policing a little bit different here in the city,” Chappell said. “Ultimately, we’re the ones responsible for that as directors of the board.
“Really this is the template to begin that process,” he said.
Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell. (City of White Rock)
Before the board voted, it heard presentations from Joanne Mills, executive director of the Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Center Association and UBC Chancellor Steven Point.
Mills told the board that roughly 13,500 Indigenous people call Surrey home. “This is about 2.6 per cent of the total Surrey population,” she said. “Surrey has the fastest growing Indigenous population in B.C. and will surpass Vancouver by 2021 if growth trends continue. The majority of people identify as First Nations people, 56 per cent, followed by Metis at 40 per cent and Inuit, four per cent.”
Mills noted that of Surrey’s Indigenous population, about half is under age 27.
Point looked at the relationship between Indigenous people and police from an historical perspective.
“It has never been a relationship borne on mutual consent, on mutual acceptance,” Point said. “Policing was brought here, as was all other colonial institutions, from Britain and simply imposed on Indigenous people. Indigenous people have never viewed or seen the policing system as their system.”
Chappell called this process a “critical first step towards reconciliation” and a “once in a lifetime opportunity to build Indigenous strategies, perspectives and priorities into the foundation of a policing model rather that imposing an existing policing structure on Indigenous communities.”
They City of Surrey is on the traditional territory of the Semiahmoo and Katzie people. The report that came before the board Tuesday said the Indigenization Strategy will outline “key considerations in how the partners move forward and provide an outline of a proposed approach for engagement with Indigenous members of the community on public safety and policing issues.”
It will also provide an overview of legal requirements for the police board related to “consultation and accommodation” of Indigenous groups.